You might not be arrogant. You might not think you’re better than everyone else. But your ego has an incredible effect on the poor choices you make about food, study, avoiding conversations and procrastinating. It affects self-control and pretty much everything that we do as humans that set us up for success. How? Take a look and you’ll recognise some clear situations.
Confirmation Bias - We Make It Ok
There is a concept called Confirmation Bias and it is a great human trait that allows us to believe we’re good. Confirmation Bias simply says that whatever behaviour, decision or perception that I choose, I will find ways to justify those choices.
We do this because of ego. We find it incredibly hard to say bad things about ourselves, so when we justify those things, we make it ok. Hell, we might even make it the RIGHT choice, purely by altering our thoughts.
Bottom line: we want to feel good, and right, and clever. Not bad, and wrong, and silly. We (all healthy-functioning humans) have this ego that is biased to say “I’m not bad, I’m good!”
And sure, it makes us feel ok, but here’s where that Confirmation Bias (and also our ego) lets us down:
When I procrastinate, I don’t say “I’m just too lazy to get started on that,” or “I don’t have the self-discipline to resist doing these other things rather than that project.” Instead, we say “there’s no point in getting started right now,” or, “these are things are really important.”
We make it ok. We make our choice to procrastinate the right choice. Sure, later on, we might feel bad about it, but in the moment, we justify our actions.
Or we get to the afternoon and we decide to make a poor food choice and opt for something full of sugar, which is really tasty, but - if we’re honest - isn’t helping us achieve our goals. We aren’t likely to say “I make really poor food choices,” or “my health isn’t really as important to me as I say.” Instead, we make it ok by saying “I haven’t eaten much all day, I need the calories,” or “I need the sugar boost to get me through the afternoon,” or maybe even, “I’m so busy I don’t have time to get out of the office, so I am forced to eat whatever’s in the vending machine.”
Again, we make it ok.
And in this way, we make everything ok that we know isn’t productive. We make it ok to avoid conversations we know we should have (because it’s not ‘the right time’). We make it ok to leave things until the last minute (because there are ‘more important things’). We make it ok to not get started on that exercise plan (because ‘I’ve been stressed lately and need the sleep’).
And, usually, this is all because of Confirmation Bias. Because we want to feel good about ourselves and our ego doesn’t want to be hurt.
What can you do?
Like all biases, you don’t know it’s there. It happens below the level of consciousness. And in this case, it seems completely justified, so we take that justification and run with it as logic. Even though it’s not always reality. How do we beat it? By interrupting the bias, or by over-riding our Auto Pilot behaviour for Confirmation.
Now that you know a bit about those internal conversations and justifications, you’ll start to notice them a little more. Break them down. When we analyse, we switch on the ‘Thinking’ part of our brain that is in direct competition with the ‘Auto Pilot.’
Ask yourself questions like ‘Is this true? Do I really not have enough time to eat well?” Or maybe, “Are these things actually more important, or is something else stopping me from getting started o this project?”
2. Have An Argument (with yourself)
Challenge the perception. Start with an internal dialogue that says “that’s rubbish!” You might continue the argument to say “these things aren’t more important,” or “I don’t need an entire day to get started on that project!”
3. Know Your Triggers
Understanding what triggers unproductive behaviours is paramount to fighting them and exerting self-control. When we are aware of our limiters or our weaknesses, then we can anticipate them and our strategies to deal with them are more effective.
When are you likely to eat badly? What sort of tasks are you likely to procrastinate on? When are you most likely to skip exercise? When are you a chance of spending impulsively? If you know ahead of time when your Auto-Pilot is going to take over, you have a better chance of any strategies working in our favour.
You may not be egotistical, but sometimes your ego is working against you under the surface.
** Tony Wilson is a Workplace Performance Expert. His insights into performance science and it's application in the workplace will make you re-think the way that you approach leadership, culture change, high performance and productivity. Tony has an MBA and a BSc majoring in physiology and delivers workshops and keynote presentations around the globe.